Love shouldn’t hurt – ever

Do you often hide parts of yourself from others in order to fit in? Do you second guess yourself or discount your feelings because you think they don’t matter?
These are examples of self-abandonment. Every time we don’t act in our own best interest, don’t encourage or comfort ourselves, or don’t value our thoughts and feelings, we are abandoning ourselves. If you grew up in an unpredictable, chaotic, or abusive family, you probably learned to hide your true self. You learned to be a chameleon, changing into whatever role kept you safe from verbal, emotional, and physical abuse. You may have felt that your worth depended on what you did for others or what you accomplished (and that whatever you did, it wasn’t enough).

These coping skills and feelings of worthlessness carry over into our adult lives and affect our relationships.

Some examples of self-abandonment are:

• You second guess yourself, overthink things, and let others make decisions for you.
• You suppress your needs and interests to please others.
• You hide parts of yourself (interest and goals) or you don’t share your feelings.
• You have unrealistically high expectations for yourself and never feel worthy.
• You are critical and judgmental of yourself.
• You don’t recognize your needs are valid, fail to practice self-care or feel unworthy of self-care.
• You do things to please others even if they go against your beliefs and values.
• You focus on someone else’s needs, wants, and problems and neglect yourself.
• You don’t speak up for yourself and let people take advantage of you.

Fashion designer Diane Von Furstenberg wrote, “The most important relationship in your life is the relationship you have with yourself. Because no matter what happens, you will always be with yourself.”

When you learn self-love, the relationship you have with yourself becomes the template for all the other relationships in your life. Even when it feels uncomfortable, we need to cultivate a loving relationship with ourselves. Here are some examples of how we can create loving relationships with ourselves:

• Be a safe haven for your own needs and feelings. You’ll be happier and healthier when you meet your needs. Use meditation to learn self-acceptance and tolerance.
• Be authentic. Not everyone is going to like you and that’s okay. Spend some time rediscovering what you like and what matters to you.
• Practice self-compassion. Be mindful of when you are struggling and give yourself care and comfort.
• Set healthy boundaries and assert yourself. Many of us are afraid of offending or angering other people or we fear we will be abandoned if we stand up for ourselves, but letting others walk all over you is self-abandonment. It is saying that you will accept disrespect, blame, and invalidation because you don’t believe you are worthy of anything better. Healthy relationships begin with healthy boundaries.

How will you start to show up for yourself? It doesn’t matter where you begin, just take one small step today to value yourself. Crisis Services of North Alabama offers free and confidential services to survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence. Having a safe, non-judgmental place to unpack your feelings can make a difference in your healing. We also offer a 24/7 HELPline (256.716.1000) where you can speak with a trained crisis counselor or you may reach our Jackson County office at 256.574.5826. 

-Rebecca Hieronymi

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